Friday 23 February 2018

TDs met by wave of undecided as voters finally take to the polls

Banners encouraging voters to support the Yes and the No campaign in the Irish same-sex marriage referendum are seen in Dublin
Banners encouraging voters to support the Yes and the No campaign in the Irish same-sex marriage referendum are seen in Dublin
Referendum Commission chairman Mr Justice Kevin Cross urged people to use their vote

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Government TDs campaigning for a Yes vote were met by a wave of undecided voters during the final day of campaigning in the same-sex marriage referendum.

The No side last night predicted the result would be on a "knife edge", but only if a strong turnout was recorded across rural Ireland.

However, those campaigning for a Yes vote insist a considerable youth vote in Dublin will ensure the referendum is carried.

Government nerves have been compounded by the large cohort of undecided and strong levels of confusion detected just hours before polls opened. The closer margin between the two sides in recent days has also prompted last-minute jitters.

While ministers believe a Yes vote is in sight, there is concern that a defeat will send out the wrong message to investors.

In his final plea to voters, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Ireland had the opportunity to make history.

Mr Kenny appeared at a Yes Equality event in Dublin city before appealing to voters to bring "discrimination" to an end.

"May 22, 2015 is an opportunity for the electors of this country, the first in the world when the referendum of the people is being held, to give equal opportunity in the law of civil marriage," the Taoiseach said.

"So that we have the opportunity to be non-discriminatory in our own unique way and say through the power of our votes in the Yes campaign, that we can open the doors for all our citizens to be truly equal. This is what families should be about, non discrimination. It's a vote for love and a vote for equality," he added.

At a jobs announcement in Dublin, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton reiterated comments by IDA chief Martin Shanahan that a Yes vote would enhance Ireland's reputation in the eyes of investors.

"I have no doubt a Yes vote will be helpful for Ireland and helpful for business to grow here," he said.

Several ministers continued to campaign for a Yes vote yesterday while also canvassing in Carlow/Kilkenny for the by-election.

In Kilkenny, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald met a number of voters who said they were still undecided on how to vote in the referendum.

Asked afterwards if the wave of undecided voters stemmed from increasing confusion around the issue, the minister said: "I didn't really find confusion - there are lots of Yes voters and there are people who are still considering,

"There are still people who are saying Yes and No, and they are sort of saying they have considered both sides. That's inevitable as a debate develops," she added.

Today's vote is being held 22 years after Ireland decriminalised homosexuality.

In her final appeal to the electorate, Tánaiste Joan Burton said Ireland had moved from being a conservative state to one of the most open societies in Europe.

"It is about acceptance in your own country," she said.

"It is about being accepted as equal citizens in your own country. It is about making a statement about the country we want to live in, the country we want to create."

Chairman of the Referendum Commission Justice Kevin Cross urged people to use their votes.

Two questions will appear on today's ballot paper, he said.

People will be asked to allow marriage between same-sex couples, as well as whether to reduce the age of presidential candidates from 35 to 21.

Polling stations will be open from 7am-10pm.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News